Looking Beyond Logan Paul and Aokigahara

It’s surreal that I’ll be kicking off the year of 2018 writing about Logan Paul’s recent actions during his trip to Japan. For the extremely few posts that I have written previously, none dealt with the subject matter of current events or YouTube, let alone Logan Paul, whose videos I had never borne witness to until now.  However, I believe the current situation surrounding Logan warrants significant discussion on many levels, given the implications of his actions in a variety of contexts.

For those unaware, a vlog was uploaded to YouTube by Logan featuring himself and a group of friends visiting Aokigahara, a forest located near Mt. Fuji that is infamously referred to as the “suicide forest” internationally due to the fact that it remains a popular suicide site for victims. While visiting the forest, the group came across a man hung by a rope from a tree, presumably having killed himself. After overcoming the initial shock and briefly reaffirming that suicide isn’t a joke, they continue to investigate the body and react to their observations, before ultimately deciding to leave the forest entirely. The video was met with extremely negative reception, with criticism aimed at the improper conduct of Logan and his friends when coming across the dead body and making light of mental health disorders. At the time of writing, Logan Paul has since issued an apology on his Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Personally, I found his actions to be extremely misguided, uninformed, and abhorrent, lacking the sincerity and understanding around mental health issues and its ultimate ramifications.  However, the purpose of this writing will not involve bashing Logan Paul, as enough people have already taken the time to accomplish that from many angles. Instead, this controversy warrants an entire sleuth of questions that I feel need to be discussed, bringing to light the sheer impact that one individual can have amongst other things. These topics will include:

  • YouTube’s Response
  • “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”
  • Mental Health Awareness

YouTube’s Response 

While Logan Paul’s vlog already warrants a great deal concern, I also find YouTube’s actions (or lack thereof) to raise significant worry. In particular, the fact that it was Logan Paul himself who deleted the video after the backlash and not YouTube, who has garnered a reputation for their demonetization practices affecting thousands of content creators on the site. Somehow, Logan’s video bypassed YouTube’s content guidelines, received six million views, and made it on the trending page, despite the fact that other creators publish objectively less provocative and insensitive content and suffer consequences, such as demonetization. As quick examples, The Rubin Report has experienced demonetization or restrictions on the majority of their videos, which typically involved discussion about political issues. Additionally, PewDiePie has been nearly blacklisted by YouTube for a string of controversies surrounding him, and even Casey Neistat had a video demonetized whose purpose was to raise money for the victims in the Las Vegas shooting earlier this year.

These reveal inconsistencies with how YouTube selectively enforces its policies on some content creators who do not fit the brand or image that it attempts to portray, and fails to hold the figureheads on the platform accountable for their actions, which in this case happens to be Logan Paul. It raises the question of whether Logan Paul stands above the authority of YouTube by holding a greater degree of freedom with the content that he produces. Under normal circumstances, most content creators would not even dare to display a dead body in the thumbnail, let alone make a video about it, given that it would nearly guarantee demonetization. This entire situation brings to light the need to ensure that YouTube remains transparent about its practices and uphold its integrity amongst the face of the thousands of creators that make a living on YouTube, and the millions of viewers that engage with its content.

*Apparently, re-uploaded videos of Logan Paul’s controversial vlog have appeared on trending pages several times even after the original was taken down. From my speculation, I would not be surprised if YouTube has an algorithm that initially favors certain content creators over others, then establishes the videos on the trending page based on their view momentum.

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

In his initial apology, Logan Paul referenced the following quote in order to express that he used his influence as a content creator irresponsibly. Regardless of whether one believes that apology was sincere or not, this particular statement could not be further from the truth and underscores the importance of sensitivity and caution within a world that is becoming increasingly globalized.

To say that Logan Paul could have offended or disrespected hundreds of millions across the world would not be an understatement. Yes, Logan Paul’s dedicated outreach on his YouTube channels lies around at least 15 million, but the Internet amplifies the spread of information beyond an audience. Let’s consider the following: Logan Paul filmed a video about suicide or mental illness within an infamous forest in Japan as a foreigner. Keeping that in mind:

  • 450 million people currently suffer from a mental illness according to the World Health Organization
  • Excluding foreigners, upwards of 125 million people reside within Japan, despite the downward trend in the population according to Business Insider
  • Nearly 2.4 million people are foreign-born residents of Japan according to The Japan Times

Based on this small-scale assessment alone, I believe there are elements of the video that people could personally connect with, and subsequently feel offended by. This does not include the millions of others who might have experienced some degree of emotional impact from Logan’s video.

So what’s the point? The simple matter is that a lack of consideration was placed on people actually living with a mental illness, residents of Japan for the recording of a dead body within a forest commonly known to be a destination for suicide, and the foreign residents who fear that Logan Paul’s actions could taint the reputation surrounding foreigners. However, as a major content creator on YouTube, Logan Paul should have the awareness of such factors if he means to have a successful career and leave a positive impact, especially when he stated that it was “easy to get caught up in the moment without fully weighing the possible ramifications”. This extends to virtually anyone who values their character and that of other people. We must remember: everyone has the power to make an impact on those around them, whether it be for the better or worse.

Mental Health Awareness

The most important topic of discussion obviously centers around mental illness. We can continue to berate Logan Paul’s actions, but what remains more important is recognizing where the controversy stemmed from.

A man had chosen to end his life due to circumstances unknown to us, and he ultimately lost the will to live. It’s difficult to imagine what thoughts may have been running through his head prior to his suicide, what feelings he had towards those closest to him, what pain brought him suffering until his final moments. Before I continue, my condolences and thoughts go out to him, and those impacted by this tragedy.

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death across the world, with the World Health Organization reporting that approximately 800,000 people are victims. Several means currently exist to help with suicide prevention, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where anyone can call at 1-800-273-8255 to receive support. Even then, there are other means that we can reach out to those suffering from a mental illness, whether it be depression or anxiety. By developing a sense of compassion and reaching out to those in what may seem to be the most desperate of times, we can collectively become a force for good that aids in the avoidance of suicide as a final resort and a means to promote self-worth and happiness.

While brief, I speak as someone who through isolated periods of my life occasionally contemplated the thoughts of suicide, not only because I suffered from social anxiety and chose to withdraw, but additionally I once found my life to be wholly meaningless, where I thought the people around me would cease to care if I hadn’t existed.

What’s more, there are likely hundreds of thousands, even millions that have experienced similar thoughts running through their heads. For those inflicted, it can be extremely tough to get through the day, find enjoyment within our greatest interests, or envision a great future. However, it is important to remember:

You Matter. As individuals, we have the great opportunity to carve our own path and discover happiness regardless of society’s approval. When one comes to embrace their differences and find ways to make the best of even the worst of situations, they can not only find joy but contentedness with one’s self and others.

Conclusion

Logan Paul’s vlog certainly acted as a catalyst for a wave of retaliation. The depiction of a dead man’s body (although partially blurred) within the video and the reaction were undoubtedly inappropriate and inhumane, and it can be considered a true shame that such a video ever reached a major platform like YouTube.

Even then, without the existence of this video, I feel that valuable discussion would also be lost. Whether it be the subsequent criticism directed at YouTube for their ineptitude or the scope of our influence, these conversations bring to light ideas and thoughts that can serve to refine our thought process.

And most importantly, suicide awareness has reached a new forefront, with even more people gathering around the world to provide support to those inflicted with a mental illness or contemplating the option of suicide.

As I noted before, I never expected to be composing anything connecting to Logan Paul at the start of the year, especially with the content of this video. However, this situation has prompted the need for me to explore new topics, uncover important lessons, and grow as a person. To that, I want to officially wish a very happy new year to all and hope everyone is looking forward to the upcoming days ahead!

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